Nintendo Switch has proved itself to be an ideal home for all manner of genres - be they twitch-platformers with many a throwback mechanic or asymmetric multiplayer games with couchplay firmly in mind - but none feel more suited than the ingeniously designed puzzler. Warp Shift - the latest offering from German studio Fishlabs - fits comfortably into that category, with its charming aesthetic working in ideal harmony with its progressively deep conundrums.
And yet they don’t feel that deep to begin with, such is the simple design of its concept. It’s your job to reunite young heroine Pi with her droid-esque cuboid companion, and eventually help her reach the safety of home. To do this, you’ll need to guide her through a series of square capsules, moving each block around with the right analog stick. With no timer in place, you’re instead judged by how many moves it takes you to get Pi from her starting position to an end portal, creating a sedate pace that rewards forward thinking over manic decisions.
It effectively works like a cross between a maze and one of those classic sliding puzzles you used to play with as a child, lulling you into a false sense of inflated intelligence as you clear the first few rounds of its puzzles. Then new ideas and mechanics are introduced, drip fed slowly into proceedings, and suddenly the simple requirement to move Pi through those capsules, shifting them about so each opening creates a path to the portal, becomes devilishly more demanding.
Now they’re are switches that need to be flipped in order to open a certain gate on your way to escape, or keys that need to be collected to activate the portal. There are even colour coded openings that need to be lined up with their respective pigment in order to make them accessible. On their own, they’re relatively simple to overcome, but mixed together and Warp Shift’s latter puzzles become fiendishly difficult to navigate and complete.
Originally designed for the portrait presentation of smartphones, the landscape orientation of Nintendo Switch thankfully makes a comfortable new home for Pi’s adventures. There’s support for both touchscreen controls and the use of Switch’s analog sticks and button layouts. If you’re double-dipping from the smartphone days you’ll find using the sticks a little strange at first, but it’s a title surprisingly well-suited to dual controls.
Warp Shift’s captivating backgrounds also pop off the screen on Switch, those hand-painted animated backdrops helping accentuate that persistent sense of serenity the game maintains so well. Sure, you might start pulling your hair out trying to pull off each solution with a three-star rating, but you’ll be on the edge of zen in between those head-scratching moments.
One issue we found with the mobile version persists on Nintendo Switch, and that’s a distinct lack of an ‘undo’ button. Yes, you can restart each puzzle with a press of ‘X’, returning the conundrum to its original state, but since many of these brain teasers require multiple moves to complete not being able to redo your previous move makes having to return to the start of a particularly frustrating task. Especially in the final sections of the game, this issue becomes more and more of a problem.
While the game’s puzzles serve as the conceit for her journey home, you’re left wanting when it comes to the game’s wider narrative. From the intriguing world Pi now inhabits to her cute relationship with the voiceless, cooing cube that’s guiding her to sanctuary, Warp Ship's mild sci-fi setting is an intriguing place to visit. It’s a testament to the strength of Fishlab’s design, but it leaves this addictive puzzler feeling a little shallow outside of its core challenges.
While Nintendo Switch isn’t short on puzzle games, it’s still got plenty of room for those with a clever twist at their heart. Warp Shift has plenty of creativity at its own core, offering up an engaging twist on some simple principles. While it may be a little light on the narrative - a crying shame considering how interesting the world beyond its puzzles appear - there’s still plenty of brain-teasing fun to be had in its charming company.